I love to complain. It’s how I make a living. But times have been lean for professional complaint artists lately. The list
of Things That Don’t Stink is getting longer all the time,
and I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. I
hear from hard-core people like myself all the time who
are bravely trying to put a damper on what is really a good
state of affairs, and my hat goes off to them. Hang in there
and hope for the worst; things might turn around.
Motorcycles are, of course, on top of the list of Things
That Don’t Stink. They’ve been pretty good for a long time.
We just finished a 450 shootout where the sixth-place
motorcycle is so stunningly good that it blows me away.
Do you know how hard it is to make a big deal about grips
that are too hard or maybe a preload adjuster that’s hard
to get to? Thank goodness it costs so much.
Even the crazy-high cost of today’s dirt bikes is only
good for a short, shallow gripefest. Yes, a modern 450
motocross bike sells for $8699. That’s nutty when you consider that a Maico 490 cost only $2699 in 1981, and it was
the best motocross bike of its time. Go back a little farther and a Honda CR125 Elsinore was around $1300. Ah,
the feeling of a well-justified rant is good. Just don’t read
the footnotes, particularly if they’re supplied by the U.S.
Census Bureau. Those are the party spoilers who point out
that the average household income was $10,000 a year in
the mid-’70s and that it’s over $50,000 today.
Okay, so even adjusted for inflation, today’s motocross
bikes are more expensive, right? Absolutely. Income has
increased by 480 percent in the last 30 years and dirt bike
prices have gone up by 570 percent. We simply have to
pretend that a modern dirt bike is the same as it was back
then. If you want to compare apples to apples, you would
have to look at a modern bike that makes about 22 horsepower and has 4 inches of suspension travel. I’m sure you
could find something from China that would sell for around
By Ron Lawson
stink: used bikes.
There’s much more fertile ground for complaints when
it comes to two-strokes. If any engine design is perfect for
powering a dirt bike, the two-stroke is it. It makes more
power per pound than a four-stroke. It makes more power
per cubic inch than a four-stroke. It’s reliable, cheap to
build, easy to fix and cost-effective to own. Yet here we
are in 2015 and the market is almost entirely four-strokes!
What happened? Obviously, it’s a huge conspiracy initiated
by big government and endorsed by big corporations. The
only problem with this is that two-strokes are still here. A
2015 Yamaha YZ250 costs $7290. Adjusted for inflation,
that’s exactly what it cost when it was introduced in 1974
($1500). The real issue is that most people prefer to buy
four-strokes, and they are willing to pay more for them. It
wasn’t big government and big corporations that pushed
the two-stroke to the back burner. It was us.
It’s even hard to complain about racing venues. Back
in 1984, things looked bleak in Southern California.
Saddleback Park had just closed. Indian Dunes was next,
followed by Corona Raceway, Orange County International
Raceway and Irwindale. Carlsbad, DeAnza and Ascot were
on the to-shut-down list too. There were very few places
that actually held races. Today, there are more tracks within 100 miles of our office than at any time in history. Within
the recent past, we’ve tested at Zacka, Piru, Hungry Valley,
LACR, Competitive Edge, Glen Helen, Milestone, Elsinore,
Cahuilla, The Ranch and Barona Oaks. Riding areas in the
desert and other publicly held lands are more restricted
than ever, but back in 1984, we were afraid there would be
no public land available for riding by now. We’re doing better than we thought.
All of this is grim news for professional complainers like
me. You just can’t run a headline that says “Everything is
fine; story on page 15.” So, I’ll continue to grumble and
gripe. I’ll make a big deal about gas caps that get stuck
and seats that are too hard or too soft. But, it isn’t easy. I
might need a raise. ❑
“Hang in there and hope for the worst;
things might turn around.”
“Do you think someone could buy a
1959 Cushman and race against bikes
like the Elsinore?”
$1500. That’s $500 in 1970s currency. Or, even better, you
could find a 12-year-old motocross bike that’s way, way
better than that for the same price. This month we raced a
Honda CR250R two-stroke at the 24 Hours of Glen Helen.
The engine was 15 years old and the chassis was 11. And,
it was competitive! Motorcycles have been really good for
a long time, so there’s a wealth of used bikes on the market that didn’t exist back in the old days. If you couldn’t
afford a new dirt bike in 1974, tough luck. You couldn’t
find a 15-year-old dirt bike because they didn’t exist. Do
you think someone could buy a 1959 Cushman and race
against bikes like the Elsinore? Good luck with that. The
truth is that you can go racing today for less money than
ever before. So, add that to the list of things that don’t